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CNN SPECIAL REPORTS
Katrina: The Storm That Never Stopped. Aired 7-8p ET.
Aired August 29, 2015 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As I go around the country I talk to people about lessons from Katrina. One of them is there no any given day Mother Nature can destroy anything built by man.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN SPECIAL REPORT HOST: Hello and welcome to the CNN Special Report "Katrina the storm that never stopped." I'm Anderson Cooper reporting from New Orleans.
10 years ago when hurricane Katrina slammed into the gulf coast many parts of the city were left under water. Most of the residents managed to evacuate, but thousands either chose to remain here or didn't have the means to get out before the storm hit.
More than 1,800 people lost their lives but you might be surprised to learn that the exact death toll is still not known. The remains of more than 50 victims were never even claimed by any family members and the remains of more than 30 victims were never even identified.
This is a memorial park, built three years after the storm built in the shape of Katrina's eye. That actually houses, the remains of those unclaimed, unidentified victims. We are going to take you back in the next hour to some of the places that we reported on in 2005 and you are going to meet survivors who say that for them in so many ways Katrina really is the storm that never stopped.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you doing, sir?
HARDY JACKSON, SURVIVOR: I'm not very good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened?
JACKSON: The house just split in half.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your house split in half?
JACKSON: Right. (inaudible) but, you know, we got up on the roof. All the way to the roof and water came and just opened up, divided.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who was at your house with you?
JACKSON: My wife.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where is she now? JACKSON: Can't find her body. She's gone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't find your wife?
JACKSON: No, she told me never -- she told I tried. I hold her hand as tight as I could as she told me. You can't hold me. She said take care of the kids and the grand kids and my kids.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's your wife's name in case well can put it out there?
JACKSON: Tonette Jackson.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK and what is your name?
JACKSON: Hardy Jackson.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are you guys going?
JACKSON: We got nowhere to go, nowhere to go. I'm lost, that's all I had. That's all I had.
COOPER: Like so many others Hardy Jackson didn't realize how fast the floodwaters would rise. How dangerous it was to stay at home in Biloxi, Mississippi. Hardy's wife, Tonette was a good swimmer who didn't want to leave. So Hardy decide to stay with her. Deep down, Tonette must have sensed the danger that she sent their three children and grandchildren away from the house to higher ground.
TONY JACKSON, SURVIVOR: This is a picture, the only picture with my mom and my dad together that was able to be saved.
COOPER: Tony, Hardy and Tonette's daughter was only 15 when Katrina hit.
T. JACKSON: I was trying to beg, beg and beg to stay. But my dad my told me, you know, your mom knows best so just go on and go to your friend house.
COOPER: Tonette and Hardy were sleeping in their house when the water rushed in. Hardy woke to find it rising around their bed. They went quickly to the attic.
T. JACKSON: He said as they sat up in the attic, the water started rising. The waves was, it wasn't just, little waves is became bigger waves and stop and he said he seen the other houses collapsing.
COOPER: And that's exactly what happened to their house. It collapsed on top of them.
T. JACKSON: One piece of the house want one way with my mom and the other piece went one way with him. When he felt the house hit up against the tree he was able to grab on to a branch and pull himself up, up in the tree to make sure, because he couldn't swim.
[19:05:08] As he reached done to, you know, grab my mom's hand, he held my mom's hand for a few minutes and he said he could tell that he was losing her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't find your wife?
H. JACKSON: No, she told me never -- she told I tried. I hold her hand as tight as I could as she told me. "You can't hold me."
T. JACKSON: No. I'm sorry.
COOPER: Tony was devastated then and still is now. She misses her mom every single day.
T. JACKSON: (Inaudible) my best friend and the best. I mean -- in my eyes, no wrong. No wrongdoing, no anything, she was perfect to me. Only if I could have her back just for one day.
COOPER: Tonette Jackson's body was never found, in 2012, the judge issued a death certificate based on the amount of time she'd been missing. It's possible her body was recovered, but she was never identified and never claimed. And that has haunted Tony for all these years.
T. JACKSON: I used to question myself like maybe I could go out there and look and go to different places and find her.
COOPER: The family eventually moved to Atlanta, but they struggled to move on from Katrina. The pain of losing Tonette never went away, especially for Hardy.
JACKSON: I tried, I tried, I tried, I tried, I tried to save. I've tried baby. Why did it go away?
COOPER: Hardy Jackson died of cancer in 2013.
T. JACKSON: Or to be so many years and they're still, still the same, like it was yesterday.
COOPER: Look it was yesterday. 10 years later that's what so many Kartrina survivors will tell you it feels like. The memories still vivid, the pain is still sharp. For so many, especially those who lost loved ones, it's like the storm never stopped.
JOHN MUTTER, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: It's really hard to get an estimate. But I'm sure it's 50 percent more than the official figure which is a round 1,800.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Talk to me. Talk to me. Are you all right?
COOPER: John Mutter, studies the effects of natural disasters at Columbia University, he says the official death toll from Katrina is far too low. He thinks more than 3,500 people perished because of the storm. The reason it is hard to get a final number is because some people were at first deemed missing like Tonette Jackson, while others died after being displaced by the storm.
MUTTER: If you were trying to escape and you rolled your car and you died in a car accident the day before. That wouldn't have happened otherwise. And then, how many days afterwards do you, do you keep counting. And if you died because of the exacerbation of the existing condition, something you would have died out anyway, maybe you can in weeks later should you be counted. So there's no uniform standard of this.
COOPER: John Mutter has made a list of every death related to Katrina, using record from the state, from media, and asking anyone out there who knows of a person missing or dead to send him in information which he then tries to verify. 10 years later, and he is still compiling that list, still counting the dead.
MUTTER: It's a moral issue. We know that many people die in car accidents. We know how many people died in 9/11, down to, one, you know.
[19:10:04] If anything like in the military know how many people died when there's a natural disaster, we guess, and forget it. And I think there's something wrong if we don't try to account for everybody.
COOPER: Every person who died, everybody collected in the storm's aftermath have a story to tell. Every victim a life worth remembering. When I was in Louisiana, in Mississippi during Katrina it haunted me to see the dead and not knew who they were, who they had been. 10 years later and now I finally know the story of at least one of the victims I saw in the streets of New Orleans.
COOPER: This is a levee on the industrial canal in New Orleans in boarder to a lower ninth ward. In 2005, when the storm hit, the levees bridge and the water just came pouring in to this neighborhood was basically wiped out. Not only were homes flooded. Many homes were ripped off their foundations by the force of the rushing water. Following the storm, a lot of people in this neighborhood felt like they had been abandoned. As you can see, homes have been rebuilt but there are still many empty lots and many residents have simply never returned.
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, (D) NEW ORLEANS 2004: Ladies and gentlemen, I wish I had better news for you but we are facing a storm that most of us have feared. I do not want to create panic but I do want the citizens to understand that this is very serious and it is of the highest nature.
COOPER: The dire warnings came late, the mandatory evacuation order later still.
[19:15:02] Many didn't have the means to leave. Some didn't have a car, didn't have a place to go or the money to pay for a hotel room in Baton Rouge or any place else away from Katrina's path. Others didn't really believe the warnings, didn't know the levees would fail.
IVOR VAN HEERDEN, LSU HURRICAN CENTER 2005: Our concern was that we would have, because of the size of the storm, catastrophic flooding of New Orleans in other word, the surge pouring into the city from surrounding areas. COOPER: In 2005, Ivor Van Heerden was working at the hurricane center at LSU. He watched the storm approach knowing the damage and death it could bring.
VAN HEERDEN: It was dread, fear, and just -- man we got to warn. We got to, we got to, we got to, we got to, we got to tell as many people as we can to get out.
COOPER: Van Heerden spent decades studying hurricanes on the gulf coast looking at possibility of a storm so powerful it could cause a surge that would overtop the levees that protect New Orleans. When he looked at models for Katrina he feared this was it.
Van Heerden knew not everyone would leave. When he got word the levees had failed, all he could do was sit by and watch. You know people are going to die and you feel helpless just like I'm trying, I am trying, I am trying -- sorry -- still deep scars.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are some of the very first aerial pictures of what New Orleans looks like today.
COOPER: The flooding left 80 percent of New Orleans underwater.
VAN HEERDEN: Even though we had predicted it, even though on paper we knew what was going to happen. The first time I saw from the air I just couldn't believe it, you know, it was a sight beyond my own imagination.
COOPER: No one who was there at the time could believe what we were seeing bodies in the streets, human beings decomposing for days. About a week after the storm hit I was in a small boat on a flooded street in New Orleans. We came across the body of a man, laying on top of a car. I have never forgotten the moment.
It's a horrific sight. There's a man dead on top of a car a few feet away. He drowned in the floodwaters. He is terribly decomposed. There is no way to tell how many people have died here in New Orleans. A lot of people who no doubt drowned inside their homes, their homes are still flooded and rescuers haven't been able to get to them.
It's a sickening sight and it is just incredible to think that you are in the United States. I have never seen anything like this in the United States. This is something we have seen in Rwanda, in the Genocide, Sri Lanka after the tsunami but a week after the storm there's still have body is exposed just laying out dead is -- it's mind-boggling.
It's still mind-boggling to remember exactly what it was that happened here on this spot. This is where we saw that man laying dead on the roof of the car right over there by that chain link fence is where he was. We didn't know his name. We didn't know how he ended up here. Rescue crews were, too busy focused on trying to save those who were still living to even think about recovering the dead at that point.
10 years later, however, we do know who that man was. His name was Jerry Peters. He was 64 years old. And it turns out his family goes back generations in New Orleans.
Jerry Peters' great grandfather founded a small church on this plot of land in New Orleans 7th ward in 1918. His name was Joseph Davis. Today, the church is run Jerry Peter's nephew Pastor Jerry Darby.
Hello. Hey it so nice to meet you, Pastor.
JERRY DARBY, NEPHEW OF KATRINA VICTIM: I'm glad to meet you sir.
COOPER: Thanks so much for having us. It turns out, Pastor Darby was named after his Uncle Jerry Peters.
Do you think call him Uncle Jerry, though.
DARBY: No I called him Uncle Fat.
COOPER: Uncle Fat.
DARBY: Uncle Fat, he was not a chubby guy in fact that's what he was known is even among his brothers and sisters, everybody called him Fat.
COOPER: Is that right?
DARBY: Yes, that was his name.
COOPER: This is Jerry Peters, dressed as a Mardi Gras Indian -- the only photo of him that survived the storm. Jerry grew up in New Orleans, one of 11 kids and he had two children of his own.
[19:20:04] What was your uncle like?
DARBY: Very, very loving person. Very, very supportive. He was my baseball coach, of course.
COOPER: He taught you how to play baseball?
DARBY: I just want to play baseball. He taught me how to play football.
COOPER: The morning of the storm, Pastor Darby called his uncle. The rest of the family were evacuating to Houston. It was the last time he would speak to Uncle Fat.
DARBY: You know, it was our understanding that he was going to leave, you know, that evening and obviously we we're quite optimistic and hopeful that he would be well.
COOPER: Do you know why he didn't get out?
DARBY: He just chose not to, you know, thinking that, you know, in the evening time it was still conducive to his being able to get out. One thing also I mentioned about him, Anderson he was a non swimmer. I know...
COOPER: He didn't know how to swim? DARBY: He didn't swim at all and he was deathly afraid of water.
COOPER: Jerry Peter's body was eventually recovered on September 11th when the family got worried Pastor Darby was devastated. They didn't know how he died or how he ended up floating in the water six blocks from his home. Pastor Darby didn't know that his uncle's body was found on top of a car until now.
You know, I mean I saw your uncle and I was worried, as a reporter, that I didn't want family members seeing their loved ones on television. I thought so much about him. And it's why I want, when we were able to track you down. I wanted to meet you because, you know, there's always -- there's some things you never forget and some images you never forget. And seeing your uncle is something I will never forget. And it's nice to know who he was in life.
DARBY: Yes, absolutely.
COOPER: You know, a lot of people lose loved ones and never know does it bother you not to know what happened.
DARBY: You know, initially it did. I found some measure of solace and comfort in the fact that God knows, you know, there are certain things in life, Anderson, he teach, and that are inexplicable. That's one of them, you know.
And so, this is some measure again of solace too that we shared because I did not know whether he was just dumped, with everybody else but to know that you vividly in a very picture as a way from what I am gathering, you saw him, yourself on the car. That does bring some measure of comfort to at least know that somebody saw him. And he was just on some heap pile, I don't know.
COOPER: Do not be able to put a name to the person that we were seeing is one of the things that always struck me as particularly painful.
COOPER: And so to be able to finally put a name to your uncle is for me powerful.
10 years after Katrina, Jerry Peters remains very much alive in the hearts of those who knew him and loved him. They remember the way he lived his life not just how his life came to an end.
Not every victim of the storm died in the floodwaters. Some thought they were being taken to safety. Some believe they had been promised help only to find horror in the one place of refuge they were offered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is just heartbreaking that these people have been sitting there without food, without water waiting for these buses to take them away and they keep asking us, "When are the buses coming? When are the buses coming?" And you just have to say, "I don't know. I really don't know."
COOPER: For those who didn't leave the city, the Superdome was set up as a shelter from the storm. Shelton Alexander is a poet who lives in St. Bernard Parish. He planned to evacuate the day before Katrina hit but with a half tank of gas in his car, he didn't think he' make it North Baton Rouge. So he and his cousin headed to the Superdome.
SHELTON ALEXANDER, KATRINA SURVIVOR: But I knew if we had to, you know, the shelter of last resort would be the Superdome.
NAGIN: It's not going to be the best to run but at least you will be safe.
ALEXANDER: You know, when they can't stand there at the last minute it did get some security in the sense of, you know, if you do this get stranded in a storm should only last a couple days. This is the Superdome, like what can go wrong? You know, I guess we beg to differ now like, but at the time it did sound good. So it is like right now.
COOPER: Shelton knew the storm would be bad and wanted to videotape his experience.
ALEXANDER: The (inaudible) shouts would vary. Right now, we're going to start pack in the Superdome.
COOPER: This is what he saw when he finally arrived, long lines of people waiting to get in. Up to 30,000 people did make it into the Superdome but when the storm hit a sense of panic began to spread.
ALEXANDER: That's what it is like live inside the Superdome.
COOPER: When the levees breached the floodwaters rose, the downtown Superdome stayed dry. Eventually it was overwhelmed with people, so others begin to go to the Convention Center.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw an older woman, some one's mother, some one's grandmother in a wheelchair. Her dead body pushed up against the side of the convention center with a blanket over it. Right on the ground next to her another dead body wrapped in a white sheet. People are literally dying.
COOPER: Herbert Freeman was taking care of his 91-year-old mother, Ethel. She was infirmed, and legally blind and lived through many other storms.
[19:30:03] So when the floodwaters threatened their home, Herbert decided it was time to leave.
HERBERT FREEMAN, KATRINA SURVIVOR: And I said I'm going to the Superdome, some other howled, "The Superdome crowded don't go there, go to the convention center with her. Bring your mama to the convention center." That's what I did I went to the convention center. COOPER: He says he was told buses in the convention center were taking people out of New Orleans, so he wheeled her all the way there through floodwaters thinking they would be safe. At the convention center, however, there was no power, no air conditioning, no medical care. And most important of all, there were no buses.
People were desperate for help including Ethel and Herbert Freeman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we want?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want help. We want help.
COOPER: I spoke to Herbert in 2005 after the storm.
FREEMAN: I was confused, I was angry, I didn't know what to do but I had prayed and spirit told me just to, you know, hold out a little longer that my help was coming, you know?
COOPER: Help came too late for Ethel Freeman. She died 24 hours after reaching the convention center. 10 years later, Herbert Freeman still vividly remembers the moment he realized his mother was gone.
FREEMAN: So when I went to check, to try to, you know, shake her when she can get up, you know, and then, you know, she didn't respond. And then I had woman on there she was a nurse she said, I'm a registered nurse, let me see what's happening and she went, she told me, "Oh, your mama dead." I said, "Yeah, I see, so, you know."
COOPER: Not only was Ethel Freeman dead. There was no place to put her body. So Herbert covered her with a blanket given to him by a stranger and left her by this side store. Three days later the buses finally came and Herbert evacuated leaving his mother's body behind. He wrote his name and phone number on a paper and slid it inside one of Ethel's pocket, hoping someone would find it and it give his mother's body back to him once the crisis was over.
It would be two whole months before anybody could tell Herbert Freeman where his mother's body had been taken. Ethel Freeman's death became a symbol of the government's failure to help those who needed it most.
LT. GEN. RUSSEL HONORE, RETIRED ARMY: I remember seeing that image and it was heartbreaking. It only reminded us that we couldn't work off a calendar, and we need to work off a clock. We need to move fast, because more people would die if we didn't speed up the evacuation.
COOPER: General Russell Honore is a Louisiana native who was called in to head up a national guard's effort to restore order and coordinate relief.
HONORE: Put those down weapons down, I'm not going to till you again goddamn it. Get those goddamn weapons down.
COOPER: His first stop was the Superdome. HONORE: There was a level of anticipation and murmuring in the crowd. I think one of the things was the helicopter, sound of helicopters, stopped. It was like, a constant murmuring, people talking among themselves and it was the most eeriest thing you -- I've ever hear because there was no other sound.
COOPER: Like so many others, Shelton Alexander was ready to get out.
SHELTON ALEXANDER, SURVIVOR: They did not come and get us, you know, we stuck here, you know, we're running out of food, and like, it did don't seem like nobody is coming at all.
COOPER: The Superdome was breaking down. The toilets overflowed, people were understandably angry. But in the middle of all of this and uplifting moment caught by Shelton on his camera.
ALEXANDER: We got to come together, we got to do something, you know, want to march and sing men let's do that. So and so one minute we like, this little light of mine I'm going to let it shine oh...
It was dark, and it was darkness. And we like we go and let it shine even in the midst of the dark, you know, I thought that this was real, real, real powerful.
COOPER: Six days after the storm and finally the super dome and convention center were mostly evacuated. Buses took people to places like Houston and Atlanta.
ALEXANDER: Yeah, so am I still -- I need to just get out of here it's just too painful for to see if imagine.
COOPER: Shelton's home like so many in St. Bernard Parish was destroyed, but he returned to rebuild. His life has changed a lot since Katrina, he lost many family members in the years after the storm and his struggle to support himself. He's turned his experiences into poetry.
ALEXANDER: The truck is loaded with supplies, probably more than we need it. They can't let the trucks to us still can't believed it. Third-world country how we were treated. I wrote this piece so history isn't repeated. Even when I'm dead and gone and the Lord calls me home. They will remember this poem -- "Poetic Storm inside the Superdome".
COOPER: New Orleans wasn't the only city that suffered from the storm. In the days after Katrina, I was in Waveland, Mississippi, a town that saw its own share of destruction and grief.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are grateful for the military assets that are being brought to bear. I want to thank Senator Fritz and Senator Reid for their extraordinary efforts, Anderson, tonight. I don't know if you heard, maybe you all have announced it but Congress is going to unprecedented session to pass a $10 billion supplemental bill tonight to keep FEMA...
COOPER: Excuse me, Senator.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... and the Red Cross up in operating.
COOPER: Excuse me, Senator. I'm sorry for interrupting. I haven't heard that because for the last four days I have been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know I got to tell you there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry and very frustrated and when they hear politicians clap you know, thanking one another, it just, you know, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now.
Right after Katrina struck before going to New Orleans, I spent several days in Mississippi reporting from Waveland. There were houses all along here? The town took a direct hit from the storm and many of the residents who survived lost everything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's from my room. It's from my room.
COOPER: It's devastating, I mean...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, gosh. Oh, gosh.
COOPER: ... absolutely.
Waveland looks like it had been wiped off the map. I went out with a search-and-rescue team from Virginia who were looking for the dead. At this house a neighbor said four members of a family had drowned inside. And they're -- they've been inside for 48 hours now, so when the rescue workers break inside the home and open up the windows, the -- the smell it's -- it's overwhelming. It's just, goes down the block.
Christina and Edgar Bane lived here with their two teenage sons, Edgar Jr. and Carl. The two boys were handicapped so the family decided not to evacuate. When the floodwaters rushed in, all four drowned in their home. A month after their bodies were recovered, I met Edgar and Christina's daughter, Laura and Serena Bane.
SERENA BANE, SURVIVOR: And this was the kitchen. This is where they had died.
COOPER: They are the only remaining members of the family and had to identify the bodies of their parents and brothers.
COOPER: What's going to happen tomorrow?
S. BANE: I don't know. We're just basically living day by day.
COOPER: This the house where Edgar and Christina Bane lived and died with their two teenage sons. The house itself has been rebuilt, has been refurbish, there's another family living here now. 10 years ago 95 percent of the homes in Waveland were damaged in hurricane Katrina. There's a little sign of that destruction, but if you talk to anybody who lived through it. They all say the same thing. They will never forget what happened here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This all (inaudible), yeah. That's Edgar and that's Carl. And that's my dad at a wrestling match.
COOPER: Do you think much about Katrina?
LAURA BANE, SURVIVOR: All the time.
COOPER: All the time?
L.BANE: All the time.
COOPER: You know, it's been 10 years. You think about it all...
L.BANE: All the time.
COOPER: Laura Bane is now 35, she lives not far from the house where her parents and brothers died. She has her own family now, but for her the storm has never really stopped.
L. BANE: So sad, this is all of them. And right here you see how the blind are. After the water were seating down. My dad, the way my dad landed was as if he was standing up. And he was like looking out the kitchen window, because his elbows was like this on the, on the, the counter.
COOPER: Did you ever figure out what exactly happened to your parents and brothers?
L. BANE: No. My mom knew how to swim, she was a good, good swimmer. The only thing I can think of, my mom watched my dad and my brothers drowned. And I believe that she truly drowned intentionally with them.
COOPER: She didn't want to leave them?
L. BANE: Right, of course not.
COOPER: The Bane sisters hope to move away from Waveland move away from the memories of what happened here.
Even though much of the gulf coast has been rebuilt, there are reminders of the storm everywhere. Some too big to ignore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going to happen, if we don't get them out of here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two of them have already died here on this ramp waiting to get out in this very spot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two died here, because you couldn't get them out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two died here because we could not get them out.
COOPER: Before Katrina hit, this was the biggest hospital in New Orleans, with the busiest emergency room in the country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was our auditorium, and now it is just the emergency department.
COOPER: Charity hospital was founded to serve the poor in the 1700s. And in 2005, it was doing exactly that -- providing medical care for the poor and the uninsured in New Orleans. When Katrina struck, the hospital flooded. The patients, some of them very sick were left stranded.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're basically like the primitive medicine, just kind of guessing and treating patients for whatever we think they have.
COOPER: Dr. Roderick Bennett was third year E.R. resident in 2005.
[19:50:01] He was 29 years old then and was looking forward to a long career at charity.
RODERICK BENNETT, THIRD YEAR ER RESIDENT IN 2005: There was a point where I said hey, these patients can maybe hold out a day. OK they have made at two days but now we're going on a third day, you know, when we simply, we don't have the supplies to do all of this.
COOPER: The power went out, an emergency generator were unreliable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have no showers or toilet at all. We're running water at all.
COOPER: The biggest problem was keeping the patients alive and hydrated with no power. There were no machines to help.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it gone?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yeah this is happening now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, maybe.
COOPER: And there was no word on when these patients could evacuate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a lot of water to my (inaudible) and I think he calls for a checking.
BENNETT: The most concern of patient -- I was most concerned about were they weren't called lady intensive care patients because a lot of them were elderly. So there are elderly. They were already very sick before this happened but no air-conditioning, its 96 degrees, it's terribly humid, you know, just by being that ill and itself makes you prone to dehydration. And so, you know, they -- all of these patients are really that they are struggling for their lives.
COOPER: But Dr. Bennett and the rest of the staff found a ways to make the days bearable.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. Feldman?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lower.
COOPER: They bonded with each other, bonded with the patients, try to keep spirits up.
BENNETT: The people give me haircuts. There are people singing.
So it was tough but it was -- actually, there were some bright moments as well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what's her name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not Katrina.
COOPER: The brightest moment came when they got word to choppers were finally coming. It had been almost five days. The doctors and nurses at charity had kept all of their patients alive. The only ones, who died, died outside waiting for helicopters. Their bodies stored in the stairwell. The staffs were the last to leave.
BENNETT: It is definitely tough seeing the, you know, a place that you love so much just sitting here now.
COOPER: Charity never reopened. For a long time Dr. Bennett avoided passing by the empty hospital. It was just too painful to see it untouched since Katrina. He's moved out of New Orleans and now practices medicine in Florida, though he hopes that one day to return to the city he still loves.
Charity hospital is in some ways an unofficial memorial and unintended reminder of what happened here 10 years ago. But built on top of the old Charity Hospital Cemetery is another memorial built specifically to remember, the Katrina Memorial which houses the remains unidentified victim of the storm more than 80 of them.
EWIS CATALDI, MEDICAL EXAMINER FOR LOUISIANA DURING KATRINA: Kids that would be the most.
COOPER: And you saw them.
COOPER: Dr. Lewis Cataldi was the medical examiner for Louisiana during Katrina. He tasked to go identifying all of the dead recovered from the storm.
CATALDI: They're going to send the congestion to these bodies. They're this totally unidentifiable.
COOPER: It's like a puzzle.
CATALDI: Very much.
COOPER: It was difficult to say the lists. Many bodies were badly deteriorated from the flood waters and from the heat. The job was never finished, funding ran out in 2006. Just as the failure to reopen Charity Hospital haunts Dr. Bennett, the fact that so many of the dead were never identified pains Dr. Cataldi.
CATALDI: I still feel like I left the mission uncompleted.
COOPER: That's like a hole in you?
CATALDI: Yeah. That's been always going to be a hole in me. It's been when I got to started in this whole process, it's about the one person not about the masses and if you can't identify that one person get him back to the loved one gets closure I think it's failure on my part.
COOPER: The memorial is the final quiet resting place for those who died a violent death, unclaimed, unidentified victim of the storm.
COOPER: So the city and the coast is largely rebuilt. The levees strengthened. The places and the people are not the same as they were. Parts of New Orleans are thriving, pulsing with light. Other parts remained abandoned passed by without a glance.
It was the worst natural disaster ever to hit the United States. And for some, the storm just never stopped.